After promising Benei Yisrael great rewards for faithfully observing His commands, God proclaims in Parashat Bechukotai, “I am the Lord your God who has taken you from the land of Egypt, from your being slaves to them” (26:13). He then adds, “va-eshbor motot ulekhem” – “and I have broken the bars of your yoke,” comparing Benei Yisrael’s release from Egyptian bondage to the breaking of the harness of the yoke placed on an ox, though which it is attached to the plow. Rashi, commenting on this verse, writes that the word “motot” actually refers to the pegs which hold the yoke in place. Specifically, Rashi identifies the “motot” as pegs which keep the reins of the plow attached to the harness, so the yoke will not separate from the ox.
It has been suggested that there might be great significance to the fact that, according to Rashi, God speaks here not of breaking the yoke itself, but rather the small pegs which hold the yoke in place. Freedom can often be achieved by simply eliminating the “pegs” – the small matters that hold us down. Sometimes we feel hindered and restrained by a large “yoke,” by some major dilemma. It appears that achieving happiness would require some drastic change, the destruction of the large, heavy “yoke” which weighs us down, and we thus fall into despair. While at times we are, indeed, restrained by a large “yoke,” a problem which only a drastic turn of events can resolve, very often, all we need is to break the “pegs,” undertake a relative simple measure. This might mean introducing simple, minor changes to our routine which have a profound impact. Sometimes, this means letting go of petty arguments, or forgiving a minor offense which was committed against us. When we feel a heavy “yoke” on our shoulders, some dilemma that weighs heavily upon us, preventing us from achieving all we would like or from experiencing joy and fulfillment, we should perhaps see if perhaps there are small “pegs” we can beak to set us free. Before determining that the challenges are too large to overcome, we should first determine if perhaps there are simple, modest measures we can undertake to “release” us from the “yoke” that constrains us, so we can be free to maximize our full potential and live the life we want to live.